Posted on Apr 1, 2024

PART I: Maki Fine Arts (April 6 – May 12, 2024)
PART II: Tsutaya Ginza Atrium (April 26 – May 15, 2024)

Maki Fine Arts presents a solo exhibition of new works by Alex Dodge titled A Way With Words. The exhibition will run from April 6 (Sat.) to May 12 (Sun.). This will be Dodge’s third solo show with the gallery, and the first in about two and a half years (the last being in 2021). This exhibition will consist of two parts: Part I, which will be held at Maki Fine Arts, and Part II, which will be held at the GINZA ATRIUM in Ginza Tsutaya Books.

Over the past 20 years Dodge has continued to redefine the act of painting with innovative techniques and processes. Employing a range of software and computer code, his works traverse the virtual and physical worlds. With a unique approach, inspired by various printmaking techniques, Dodge translates his images to canvas with thick layers of oil paint using stencils cut with lasers and other CNC processes. His work is a fusion of advanced digital tools and painstaking manual work using traditional techniques and media. Reflected in his technical process is his perennial subject of technology itself and how it continues to redefine human experience.

The new works for this exhibition take connectivity of language and AI as their general theme. While deeply contemplative in their anticipation of the near and distant future, the work remains playful with interminable humor and levity.

At the heart of human experience lies a paradox: our deepest feelings and insights are often ineffable, eluding the grasp of language. Yet, in this digital epoch, language, particularly text, has become indispensable in connecting us.

Language has been a primary human technology allowing for extensible or shareable virtual spaces; be it in the form of a printed book, song lyrics, or compiled computer code and yet language is not without its limitations. The intersection with visual forms such as painting extend human experience in ways that language alone cannot. In these exhibitions Alex Dodge extends the established use of text in his work, employing his signature humor and formal play, exploring various dimensions of language as a propositional, procedural, poetic, graphical, and tactile construct. “A Way With Words” plays with text in a way that both celebrates its expressive capability while equally laying bare its often comical inadequacy.

These exhibitions arrive at a moment when our civilization embarks on a new path with language. The rise of computational power, statistical modeling, and algorithmic processing—exemplified by tools like Chat GPT and others—has revolutionized our interaction with text. There is an irony that the GPU (graphics processing unit), originally intended for visual tasks, now drive neural networks and large language models, in reshaping our language landscape in profound ways. This technological leap stirs a philosophical and linguistic debate, in the Western tradition, with figures like Ludwig Wittgenstein and the linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf. Their key premise, the centrality of language in defining and shaping reality, gains new significance as we blend text with AI to generate human experience. In contrast, Eastern philosophies, notably Buddhism and Taoism, regard language as a more limited tool in understanding reality. They advocate transcending language to reach a deeper, direct understanding of reality, as practiced in Buddhist meditation or the Taoist pursuit of intuitive understanding. Fittingly, the exhibition’s second chapter unfolds in Tsutaya bookstore’s Atrium gallery—an inner sanctum of the celebration of language in book form.

Dodge’s paintings are a visual metaphor for this philosophical discourse. Phrases from song lyrics and poetry are transformed into fluffy, pillow-like letters sewn from fabric, taking on almost figurative-like qualities as they inhabit geometrically tiled interiors. These spaces, with their numerical and computationally simulated qualities, represent idealized worlds where language—rendered as languid, floppy, and imperfect pillows—resides. The contrast is striking: the perfection of algorithmically generated spaces against the organic, unconstrained, and imperfect nature of language as portrayed in Dodge’s work.

This exhibition reflects on how new technologies redefine artistic expression. Just as photography’s advent liberated painting to explore new dimensions, the fusion of text and AI challenges and inspires new artistic vistas. Dodge’s work, spanning two decades, has been a testament to this exploration, examining the intersection of virtual systems and painting.

“A Way With Words” is an invitation to reflect on the nuanced dance between language, technology, and visual forms. Through a blend of humor, play, and thoughtful inquiry, Dodge encourages viewers to engage with these themes, offering a mirror to our complex, ever-changing relationship with language and the reality it seeks to describe.

Part I :
Alex Dodge “A Way With Words”
April 6 – May 12, 2024
Maki Fine Arts / B1F, 77-5 Tenjin-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Wednesday – Saturday 12:00-19:00 / Sunday 12:00 -17:00
Closed on Monday, Tuesday

Part II :
Alex Dodge “A Way With Words”
April 26 – May 15, 2024
GINZA TSUTAYA BOOKS ATRIUM / 6-10-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
11:00 – 20:00